Why Did Pools Disappear During the Pandemic?

And how did resellers stock up?

Pools Sold Out During The Pandemic

By RC Staff

Key Points

  • Inflatable plastic pools served as a canary in the coal mine for upcoming shortages brought up by the pandemic

  • Usually retailing for $80-$250, pools disappeared from retailers by May 2020. They could be resold for three or more times their retail price

  • Record heat, constricted supply, long production times, and interruptions in public service meant that the demand for pools far outstripped supply

If you were looking for an inflatable pool in the early days of the pandemic, you probably didn’t find one. While empty shelves and backordered products have become the norm lately, pools were one of the earliest and most fascinating examples of this future phenomenon. Yet, inflatable pools stand out from the other shortages. Unlike cleaning supplies, toilet paper, or masks, pools seem unrelated to the greater global pandemic unfolding. Follow along as we break down the factors turned pools from a convenience to a commodity.

Remember 2020?

For most of us, the early days of the pandemic were incredibly unsettling. Nobody knew what would happen next. There was a continuous belief that the whole thing would just blow over, and the goalposts were constantly shifting. Many had begun to place their hopes in summer. It was thought that like many viruses, Covid would struggle to propagate in the heat.

Well, that would have been nice. By April, rapidly growing case numbers cast serious doubts on that possibility, and the world began reckoning with the possibility of protracted lockdowns. And with that, came the first shortages.

Toilet paper. Eggs. Milk. Masks. Bread. Bottled water. Pools? The other stuff makes sense. Who can live without TP? And if the upcoming lockdowns were real, people reckoned with the possibility of needing to stock up on groceries, possibly for months at a time. So why did pools vanish too?

Everyone needs a pool!

Think of it like this: you got out ahead of the pack and bought up all the supplies you need. Groceries, hand sanitizer, toilet paper; you’re pandemic prepared. But wait a minute, just what exactly are you going to during this lockdown?

Your kids are going to be home all day, and it’s not like they can go anywhere, even their friends’ houses. You’re going to be home all day too, if your job is transitioning to remote work. So the whole house is gonna be locked up, together. And summer is just around the corner.

So you’ll get a pool.

And so do your neighbors. And so does your whole block. The smart ones picked up on this by April, and they would still have a chance. By mid-May, the sudden slam of demand came in like a tsunami, and left retailers completely devoid of pools. From 3′ inflatables to rigid 15 footers, everything, every pool was sold.

The pandemic created uneven demand for pools

Furthermore, demand for pools spiked in certain areas. The dense urban environments exacerbated factors that drove demand for pools. Smaller living spaces, more people packed together, and less options to escape heat. City dwellers were far more likely to be reliant on public or private pools during the summer, all of which were closed by the pandemic.

Additionally, the large populations in cities naturally led to greater competition between buyers. While there are more retailers serving a metropolitan area, they would be unable to meet demand, and people would drive from store to store searching for pools until they had all sold.

Pandemic Pools Sold Out

These pools were bought up by an RC Elite member in May 2020

Heat was obviously a factor as well. California, Texas, and the southwest all saw increased demand. Considering the heat would arrive there both earlier, and more intense, having a pool would be pretty important.

So imagine what it was like in LA. Or Las Vegas, Phoenix, Albuquerque, et cetera. You need a pool, you can’t find a pool, and it’s getting hot.

Why didn't pool manufacturers ramp up supply?

Pools have significant lead times. In fact, manufacturers will forecast each year’s sales months in advance, and scale their production accordingly. It can take several months for a batch of pools to be delivered to retailers, and manufacturing is heavily reliant on a stable supply chain.

A stable supply chain, something that used to be a given. While we’ve somewhat recovered from the worst of the pandemic’s disruptions, 2020 was the year we learned just how fragile our ecosystem of supply and demand is.

Even if production for pools could magically be spun up (it couldn’t), and materials could be delivered (they couldn’t), it wouldn’t matter. Everything was shutting, or shut down. Once pools left shelves, that was it.

Essentially, inflatable pool manufacturing is an industry totally unable to cope with unexpected demand. Production is reliant on accurate forecasting to be able to meet demand, and those forecasts did not pick up on the global pandemic barreling towards them.

By May, the ensuing situation was all but guaranteed. There were finite pools, and seemingly infinite demand. The only unknown variable was how much someone was willing to pay. Especially if that person really, really, wanted a pool.

So what did this mean for consumers?

Nothing good.

If you wanted a pool you were in trouble. And if you lived in a city? A HOT city? Like L.A. or Vegas? You were in big, hot, sticky, trouble.

Pools were a killing for resellers. For those who saw the impending wave of heat and demand, it was a legitimate once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (pardon the cliche).

RC Members capitalized on this big. From flipping inflatables for a couple bucks, to clearing out big box stores and trucking down loads of pools to metropolitan areas for a massive payday, this was one of the biggest and most accessible cooks of the last decade. Enough so that “pools” has become a shorthand for lucrative and limited opportunities for resellers.

Resell Calendar Resell Pools Pandemic



Everything sold. Big pools, little pools. Silly pools, fancy ones, ones with slides, ones with rigid sides. Literally everything was desirable, including foot deep kiddie pools. And the customers? Folks with spare cash who were to slow or lazy to pick up a pool at retail in time, and more than willing to fork over money for one.

Since then, there have been all kinds of different items that buyers have gone crazy for and resellers profited from. If you’re tired of missing out on these cooks, and want to start taking steps towards financial independence, joining RC Elite could be the move for you.

Until then, stay tuned to our newsletter. While we can’t post the juiciest info publicly, we will pass along opportunities as they come along. Since January, we’ve covered the MB&F raffle, the Dodge Demon, Outer Wilds vinyl repress, and several others. All of which were real, current opportunities to make money.

As always, stay safe, have fun, and make some money.

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